“Candide” de Voltaire 1759
Have you ever wish that you could can combine all your daily “life-lines” into one single object? For example, imagine having your phone, wallet, iPod, metrocard, credit card, school ID and perhaps even the keys to your house in a simple-ultralight-sleek gadget. Wouldn’t that make everyone’s life a lot more easier to handle? Well, this is of course debatable but let’s not digress so much into this subject. Unlike technology however, there is something more profound that we all seem to desire … perhaps in something in the spheres of love, happiness, life and morality. Would it not be convenient to learn all of these in one single shot? Wouldn’t we all want to become a young philosopher of our time? I have heard people saying that there is such thing in this world. Pick up the Quran, Bible, or the Testaments (these are the ones that I’m familiar with, I am aware there are others) and it would have all the answers of life in one single book.
This is not about technology nor is it about any religion. This is about a work by Francois-Marie Arouet, with a pen name “Voltaire”, called Candide that has become one of the greatest classics in the literary world. Candide painted the nature of mankind in a vivid canvas full of witty, laconic, and sarcastic remarks. Reading Voltaire was a revelation. I never knew any other classical writer that actually stand side by side to Shakespeare. Although comparable, the work of Voltaire is in many ways much more in touch with reality. Voltaire summarizes all the mischiefs, miseries, despairs, deceits, and all the other “mis-es” and “des-es” that we come to know in the English language. As Voltaire nicely puts it, “in short, this world is nothing but one continuous scene of civil war” is precisely the struggle that man have evolved into. It is no longer the battle of nature vs. man, rather man vs. man.
The other catchy factor about this book is how the story is being told. The book begins with an introduction of a wonderful state by the name Westphalia and there lives the greatest human beings; civilized, educated, and beautiful. Candide fell in love with the women he long desired. But his love was forbidden. There was no law that allows the union of two hearts from two different class spectrum. He then left and began his journey in despair and confusion. It is only through the images of the women he loved that lighten his spirits to move on. Journey after journey and trickery after trickery Candide bared. In the end and after several attempts, Candide was finally reunited with his queen and everything else that was familiar to him.
The moral of the story was, what’s next? What is there to do when you have sacrificed everything in this world? What is there to do when all your dreams have come true? Voltaire closed the book by saying, “when man was put into th Garden of Eden, he was put there with the idea that he should work the land, and this proves that man was not born to be idle” and “all events are linked together in the best of all possible worlds” …
I will leave the rest of the story for readers to seek on their own. I shall however, close my comment and introduce some of the quotes that I find enchanting and to some degree, sarcastic:
“If this is the best of all possible worlds, what are the others like?”
“A modest women may be violated, but her virtue is greatly strengthen as a result”
“In this country it is necessary, now and then to put one admiral to death in order to inspire the others to fight”
“Our labour keeps us from three great evils – boredom, vice, and want”
“We must cultivate our garden”
“People take advantage of misfortunes”
“If hawks have always had the same nature, why do you suppose that mankind has changed?”
“All is misery and deceit”
“All is for the best”
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